Securing Your Computer Network

Article excerpt

CONSIDER THIS A POP QUIZ.

Question 1: What would happen to your instructional program if you could not access your computer system due to intrusion.

Question 2: What would happen to your administrative offices if your computer network was breached?

You may have answered Question 1 with responses such as:

* Students wouldn't be able to retrieve their work or start new projects.

* No one could search resources on the Internet or in our library.

* Teachers couldn't even take attendance.

You may have answered Question 2 with responses such as:

* Scheduling changes, college applications and paycheck generation would all come to a halt.

* We couldn't access any information about our students or staff.

* We would be paying our entire administrative staff to come to work and have nothing for them to do.

In short, your entire district could be brought to its knees by a hacker's assault, and the costs of reviving the network could be astronomical. This would include the costs for restoring damaged data, re-securing the network, and repairing or replacing damaged hardware. Even more devastating would be the public embarrassment your district would suffer if your network were breached; not to mention the potential lawsuits you might face if sensitive information was exposed by a hacker.

Network Vulnerability

While district administrators may have devised plans for securing the physical plant of the school, they rarely consider the vulnerability of their computer networks. Some confuse their Internet filtering system with a security system, while others believe that the presence of an off-the-shelf firewall and virus protection software are enough to keep malicious individuals away.

The truth is that attacks on school networks are increasing exponentially. Systems are regularly "sniffed" for holes because most hackers know that school networks typically are not well secured. Aware of these vulnerabilities, enterprising hackers can commandeer a district's network and use it to launch assaults on larger computer systems. Therefore, schools should never believe that they are flying under hackers' radars.

Attacks can come from all kinds of individuals: students whose intentions are malicious or who may be trying out a newly learned skill, disgruntled staff members who are looking for revenge, or individuals from around the world who have no connection with the school at all. …

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